The Atlanta-based national furniture chain Aaron’s offers computers on a rent-to-own basis. Many of the computers contained secretly activated spyware which tracked customers’ locations, took webcam photos inside their homes, and forwarded intimate photos and information back to corporate servers, reports NBC News:
Spyware installed on computers leased from furniture renter Aaron’s Inc. secretly sent 185,000 emails containing sensitive information — including pictures of nude children and people having sex — back to the company’s corporate computers, according to court documents filed Wednesday in a class-action lawsuit.
According to the filings, some of the spyware emails contained pictures secretly taken by the rental computers’ webcams or other sensitive information including Social Security numbers, social media and email passwords, and customer keystrokes, the Federal Trade Commission determined last year.
Aaron’s officials have previously said the company never installed the spyware on computers rented out of 1,140 company-operated stores and blamed individual franchisees for installing it. But the new filings claim Aaron’s nonetheless received the secretly recorded data.
The allegations grew out of a Federal Trade Commission settlement last year [involving] a Casper, Wyo., couple, Brian and Crystal Byrd. The couple’s May 2011 lawsuit claimed the manager of the Casper store showed Brian Byrd a webcam picture of himself operating a rental computer after the manager activated the spyware in the process of trying to repossess the computer, which the manager mistakenly believed the Byrds hadn’t paid off under their rent-to-own agreement. The filings seek court permission to file a new complaint adding 54 franchisees based on the 185,000 emails since traced to Aaron’s computer servers.
On Wednesday, attorneys also filed a new lawsuit on behalf of a customer who claims an Oregon Aaron’s franchise tracked her physical location by having Detective Mode trace her Wi-Fi use of the computer.